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Review: A Wingless Hope

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A Wingless Hope  by Sydney Winward  is a retelling of "Thumbelina" from the Hope Ever After series , which supports Operation Underground Rescue  to help fight against child sex trafficking. This is the fourth book I've read from this series and the second adaptation  I've read of "Thumbelina." One reason authors tend to shy away from this story could be that it contains more high fantasy than the average fairy tale, which makes it perfect for Hope Ever After. All the books I've read in this series so far  plant additional magic lore into the fabric of the stories they tell, and this book is no exception. Where the original fairy tale was simple and doesn't always make sense, this version creates an entire culture around Thumbelina's race including two different types of pixies to explain why she was born without wings. Briar is a lost princess  whose flower seed was stolen away by a bird before she was born, causing her to grow up alone in th

Disney's Descendants Makes Even Less Sense Thanks to The Rise of Red!

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I have never been a fan of the Descendants franchise , which was originally created by Disney to take down Mattel's semi-successful Ever After High line of dolls, books , and webisodes. It succeeded in this endeavor thanks to  Disney brand recognition  despite being an inferior product. Coming out nearly a decade after the original , we have a fourth Descendants movie entitled The Rise of Red . This movie introduces a new generation of fairy tale offspring with countless changes to the classic stories, most of which are for the worse. Its only redeeming factor was a heartfelt tribute to Cameron Boyce , who played the son of Cruella de Vil in the original films. The Descendants franchise had very little working in its favor from the start, but it at least had a leg up over The School for Good and Evil  by basing the backstories of the Disney characters on their films instead of superimposing an artificial school setting where they learned to be heroes and villains. This film retcon

Slay the Princess Is the Most Confusing Visual Novel You've Never Played!

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If you think princesses are meant to be rescued , you might just be the perfect victim  hero for Slay the Princess , a horror visual novel available on Steam . Although it's classified as a horror game, the endlessly branching story arcs make the game whatever you want it to be. It is a psychological thriller based on player perspectives. If you want the princess to be a damsel in distress , she will be. If you start second-guessing her integrity based on the slanderous claims of the narrator, she will turn into something just terrifying enough to validate your fears. At the end of the day, this visual novel is a complicated web of time travel and existential symbolism where nothing is what it seems. No matter how confused you are while playing, it's impossible not to appreciate the ever-expanding number of routes that are available as well as the detailed pencil drawings, multi-faceted voice acting, and haunting score. Every chapter starts the same way. You're on a path i

Review: A Last Hope

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The aptly titled A Last Hope  is the final book in the Hope Ever After series. I received an ARC from the author, Verity Sandahl to read before its release date on July 17th. This book is a gender-bent retelling of "King Thrushbeard"  and contains a unique take on the story in a fantasy setting. Like all the books in this series, proceeds on sales will go toward Operation Underground Railroad  to help fight against child sex trafficking and protect children from exploitation. This book has more Christian messaging than the other Hope Ever After books I've read, but it was still enjoyable as someone from a different religious denomination. The story focuses heavily on star-crossed lovers, which is my favorite type of romance. Princess Arianna hails from the Thrush kingdom whose royalty has the ability to fly. Prince Marc, from an enemy kingdom, is an empath, who can read people's emotions by touching them. When the two take an illicit flight as children, they form a

Review: The Beauty and the Griffin

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The Beauty and the Griffin  by JM Stengl  is the thrilling conclusion to the Faraway Castle series  that I started reading  during the first year of my blog . It's been a long wait for this sixth installment, but it was worth it. The ARC I received serves as a cathartic conclusion to the stories of all these royal modern-day teenagers who stayed at the enchanted Faraway Castle resort as an escape from day-to-day life. This book is a retelling of "Beauty and the Beast"  that adapts the fairy tale uniquely, incorporating elements that are rarely used in other adaptations including the beast's nightly proposals and the beauty's dreams of him as a prince. It is firmly ingrained in the setting of Faraway Castle and contains all of the magical properties of this world that have been set up in the other books. I would not recommend starting the series with this one, but it is well worth diving into these six novels and two novellas from the beginning with Ellie and the P

Deconstructing the Wicked Stepmother

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It was common in the early days of fairy tales  for the enemy of a princess or future princess to be her vain stepmother. There were many reasons for this, most of which are no longer relevant by modern standards, causing that trope to fall by the wayside. One outdated reason is that girls rarely left the house (or "tower" if you will) in the old days because they were expected to do housework and eventually become mothers. Therefore, meeting an enemy outside of their own homes would have been unlikely. Why do you think so many princesses long for freedom ? The other reason is that fairy tales are meant to encourage children to love and obey their parents, so it would be counterintuitive for them to go up against their biological caretakers. There are  a few rare exceptions , but these disturbing stories about horrible parents never made it into the mainstream media for good reason. Giving them stepparents who were brought into their lives at a later time solves this problem

Review: The Rose Gate

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We are closing in on the first half of #fairytalesummer  with The Rose Gate  by Hanna Sandvig . This was a new author for me. Her unique style of modern-day fae isekai stories in her Faerie Tale Romances series made for a refreshing change from the usual fairy tale retellings. This book is an adaptation of "Beauty and the Beast"  that does a good job of keeping it fresh while retaining the essence of the classic tale that we all know and love. On a personal level, I particularly liked that the main character worked in the children's section of a library  reading fairy tales to kids. That was more than a little relatable . 😉 The series follows a pattern of girls from the real world traveling through fae gates to Tir Na nOg , which is a great method of escapism that perfectly balances modern sensibilities with fantasy stories of old. Isobel is a typical modern girl who spends her days teaching kids feminism at the library for a mysterious boss who is more than she appears

Ariel Makes a Splash on Disney Jr.!

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The newest incarnation of Ariel made her way to Disney Jr. (formerly spelled Disney Junior) today with more episodes anticipated for Disney+ tomorrow. There were two 23-minute episodes split into four 11-minute long segments today. These continue the worldbuilding of this new version of Atlantic that was first introduced in the "Mermaid Tales" shorts from earlier this month. There was a lot of anticipation for this show, but it also gave pause to fans of the original series from 1991 due to its rewriting of Ariel's past. Although there were many changes made to the appearances, world, and backstories of the characters, many things still remain the same, including Ariel's obsession with human objects and the appearances and personalities of Flounder and Sebastian. Overall, it is a mixed bag that blends the original lore with new changes that are indicative of a different story that may have worked better as a spinoff. Ariel follows the adventures of a young versio

Review: The Midnight Prince

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The Midnight Prince  by Angie Grigaliunas  has been on my list of #fairytalesummer  readings for a while. It is part of the Once Upon a Prince series , which is currently on sale for either $.99 or free , so I plan to read and review the rest of the books soon. I have now completed two-thirds of the series  with only four books left. The Once Upon a Prince books are retellings of well-known fairy tales by different authors told from the perspective of the prince. Some of them are gender-bent retellings , but not all . The Midnight Prince  is a retelling of "Cinderella"  that takes place in a fae world  and just might be one of my favorites from this series so far. It uses the Andrew Lloyd Webber technique  of making the two lovers childhood friends who fell in love long before the ball. The book presents an intriguing mystery for readers to solve throughout the book. It's a real page-turner that leads up to a satisfying ending filled with magic and romance. Kirran is a t

Review: A Healing Hope

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I received a last-minute ARC for A Healing Hope  by Selina De Luca and read it over the weekend. This is the second book I have read from the Hope Ever After series , a charity author collaboration to support O.U.R. (Operation Underground Rescue) , which rescues children from exploitation and trafficking. The story supports this mission in its themes and worldbuilding. Though it is a retelling of "Rapunzel,"  it takes only the most basic elements of the fairy tale to weave a unique and original mythology similar to A Cascading Hope , the other book I've read from this series. Both of these stories take place in high fantasy worlds with complex magic systems and lore, which, though sometimes overwhelming, had a lot of love and planning put into them. This book does a particularly good job of providing hope to lost children who dream of returning home with its theming and plot. Raíza is a lost princess  trapped in a dragon-guarded tower  with a solid escape plan in mind. H

Finding Anastasia Is the Best Tabletop Game You've Never Played!

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It took three long years, but I finally received my copy of Finding Anastasia  in the mail, a game I had backed on Kickstarter and promoted in my board game post  last year. This game is breathtakingly beautiful and tons of fun at parties, so it's a shame that it isn't more widely available. Inspired by the historical legend that was popularized by the beloved 1997 animated movie , Finding Anastasia is a social deduction game in which players who claim to be Anastasia are given invitations to a tea party held by the Empress to find her long-lost granddaughter before Rasputin's spies can eliminate her. The Kickstarter campaign for this game ran for a long time, allowing many upgrades to pass into its final production, including a gorgeous custom teacup to hold the jewels, tarot-sized player cards with original artwork, and a beautiful box that can be mounted on a wall when not in use. Finding Anastasia is produced by Good Knight Games  an independent game group that has expe

Review: To Ride the Wind

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To Ride the Wind by Melanie Cellier  is the first book in a two-part epilogue of  the Four Kingdoms series  that does not disappoint. This retelling of  "East of the Sun and West of the Moon"  is full of adventure, romance, and surprises. Though I'm not typically a fan of the original fairy tale, nearly every  adaptation I have read  improves upon its flaws. The first book in this duology ends on a cliffhanger that will be completed in  To Steal the Sun  but tells a satisfying enough story to make the wait worthwhile. This review is the second one I have written for  #fairytalesummer , a Facebook event going on right now that awards points to readers of clean fairy tale adaptations all month long! If you love fairy tales as much as I do, you should check it out. Charlotte, who was first introduced in  The Abandoned Princess  is all grown up and ready to go on adventures of her own, in no small part to get away from her  sisters , who treat her like an outsider in her own

Get Ready for a Mermaid-Filled Summer!

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The mermaids have arrived! It's been a slow and painful wait, but the first trailer has finally dropped for the highly anticipated Mermaid Magic animated series . Rainbow SpA 's foray into the underwater world is set to premiere on Netflix August 22nd. The show gives off strong H2O: Just Add Water vibes with the three heroines transforming into humans on dry land and mermaids in the water.  H2O's attempt at its own animated series  left much to be desired, allowing this show to kick it up a notch for mermaid fans everywhere to enjoy more exciting animated mermaid adventures. The teaser was launched alongside additional previews of another upcoming mermaid show,  Disney Junior's Ariel , an original take on the classic character. Ariel has a series of ten recently released shorts called Mermaid Tales that give us a taste of what's to come. If you're more of a bookish type  (and who can blame you?), there's also a great new mermaid story out on Wattpad! The

Review: Frozen The Musical

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It was inevitable that Disney's biggest cash cow of the last decade or so would get a Broadway run . Almost all of their biggest hits have now toured on Broadway at some point and were followed by  live-action remakes . Though I was excited to see the movie when it came out, I've always thought Disney's  Frozen   was overrated . So when it made its  Broadway debut  back in 2018, I was not particularly eager to see it. Its Disneyland counterpart,  Frozen Live at the Hyperion , relied mostly on screens to tell the story and did not encompass a fulfilling experience onstage. As a result, I was pleasantly surprised to find that while the Broadway version also uses screens to create the full effect of its snowy landscapes, it has some lovely set pieces and entertaining musical numbers, and it is quite possibly Disney's best Broadway adaptation of one of their animated features. Maybe I've been too hard on this franchise. Most Disney on Broadway shows suffer from unneces

Netflix Announces New Animated Princess Musical!

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With the status of Disney's Penelope still up in the air, Skydance Media swooped in to the rescue yesterday with the announcement of a new animated princess musical coming out this year! Spellbound will be a direct-to-streaming Netflix original featuring a new princess named Ellian who goes on a quest to save her family after they get turned into monsters. Though Netflix originals tend to be hit or miss , this movie has some big names behind it that gives it the potential to surpass its theatrical competitors that are coming out the same weekend. This is the first original animated princess movie we've gotten since Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken came out a year ago, so it's pretty exciting news, especially considering that Disney's big holiday princess fare this year is a sequel and not an original story. Get ready to learn about creative team behind Spellbound ! The movie is begin directed by Vicky Jenson who worked on Shrek . The talent behind Princess Ellian is